Sheepshead Bay/Plumb Beach Civic’s attorney, Gene Berardelli, was arrested on June 6 on disorderly conduct charges while defending the rights of black youths to use Manhattan Beach.
According to Berardelli, police were blockading the Sheepshead Bay and Manhattan Beach foot bridge and other access points to Manhattan Beach, turning away black students. The students, who converged on the beaches in celebration of Senior Cut Day, were being told that they could access the beaches at 2:00 p.m., while white students were told they should return at 1:30. Black students were also being directed to Brighton and Coney Island beaches.
The outraged Berardelli met a handful of black students who were turned away, and told them that he would escort them to the beach front. What ensued was several instances of harassment from police officers, who treated both the kids and Berardelli inappropriately. The officers also attempted to misinform or outright lie about the reasons black students couldn’t access the beach, though no mind was being paid to white students attempting entry. On their journey across the footbridge, on Oriental Blvd., and at the entrance to the beach, they were stopped numerous times, the last ending with a Lt. Harrington attempting to physically intimidate Berardelli, shoving him, and ordering his arrest.
Berardelli was put behind bars before being issued a summons. He told SheepsheadBites.com he found the incident “disgusting”, and plans to report the affair to the NYC Civilian Complaint Review Board, among other groups. He has also refused the help of politicians, requesting no special treatment, and indicated he plans to fight the charges all the way, and potentially sue the lieutenant who ordered his arrest.
You can read Berardelli’s full account of the incident here.
Berardelli summed up the situation, writing:
The real tragedy is that one neighborhood wields so much power as to command a police precinct to violate civil rights.
The real tragedy is that one neighborhood demands and receives protection at the detriment of others. If these teens were so dangerous, why were they “herded” (for lack fo a better word) to other neighborhoods where said “dangerous” teens – now disgruntled – are left to their own devices.
In addition to this incident, Berardelli says his contacts were relaying other examples of misconduct to him, including police harassment of the 200-500 youths wandering on Emmons Ave. In one case, an officer took a cell phone away from a student and smashed it on the floor. Many people were also concerned they would be arrested.
*This story was first posted on June 6. On June 8 it was taken down and reposted to more accurately reflect the events.